Mental health is not an issue that politicians generally choose to make a splash on. But newly elected Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had more to say about mental health in his inaugural speech on public policy than he did about the rest of the NHS.

Despite his emphasis on the need to "allow the genius of grassroots innovation, diversity and experimentation" to take hold in hospitals, he nevertheless railed against the fact that there are no centrally set targets on mental health waiting times. Those affected deserve better.

This week he spoke to HSJ about his wish to make mental health a priority in policy terms, saying his experience as a Sheffield MP had opened his eyes to the low priority given to mental health services and the "grotesque" effects of untreated mental health offenders being repeatedly "spat out" of the revolving doors of the prison service.

When Mr Clegg predicts that we will look back in 50 years on the way society treats people with mental illness "and ask ourselves what we were doing", he is effectively issuing a challenge, not only to his political rivals, but to all of us.

As he seeks to make his mark as Liberal Democrat leader, a strong voice on mental health will be welcome. And it could set him apart from the legions of politicians who shy away from a subject deemed unpopular with voters, despite the huge number of lives mental illness touches.